Tuesday, May 1, 2012

about the strawberry jam

A few years ago I bought some Ultra-Set (I think that's how they capitalize and hyphenate it) to thicken berry pie filling, and one day when I had some leftover filling I realized that there wasn't much difference between pie filling and jam.  I started thinking about how oppressive freezer jam is.  You can't combine batches, you have to measure the ingredients carefully, you use huge amounts of sugar, you have to stir at regular intervals, you can't fiddle with it while it's setting, you have to devote an entire day to the project.  Gag!  And then the light bulb went on.  This new pectin meant I could make jam that tastes like I want whenever I want in the time I have. It's going in the freezer anyway, so you don't have to worry about pH or shelf-stability or anything.  Nice. 

With strawberry jam I clean the berries and chop them in my food processor, put them in a pan with some sugar mixed with Ultra-Set (on Saturday I started with about a cup of sugar and a half cup of Ultra-Set to two flats of strawberries), a splash of lemon juice, a pinch of salt, whatever liquid sugar I have on hand (corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, Lyle's Golden Syrup), and warm it just enough to dissolve the sugar.  I taste it as it cooks and add more of whatever I think it needs; more pectin until it's the right consistency, more sugar until it's sweet enough but not masking the fresh fruit flavor.  At the end I put in a splash of vanilla, then I put it in clean jars and freeze it.  Done, and it didn't even consume my entire day.  It's so liberating! I've done the same with berries, rhubarb, peaches, and plums.  Those fruits need a little more cooking to break them down, but they still taste bright and fresh when you're done. 

So I don't have a recipe, really.  Just an awesome pectin that is probably powdered Alzheimer's, because we all know there's no such thing as a shortcut.  But it's so convenient! It will make you a jam guru. 


beckster said...

Of course I had to look this thickener up, and you will be glad to know it is made from maize. No Alzheimer's connection to maize that I know about! Sounds very clever, your recipe. I will have to try it. Sounds like you are still on a roll. Ride it out, no telling what you will get done!